Former Tyrone ace Philip Jordan: Still a big gap between Dublin and Tyrone
TYRONE’S three-times All-Ireland winner Philip Jordan fears his native county mightn’t be able to close the gap on All-Ireland champions Dublin this year – even though he reckons there has been some slippage in the Sky Blues.
While the Moy man acknowledges there is greater versatility about Tyrone in 2019 – having experimented extensively in the League and Championship with a more attacking brand of football before reverting back to their running game in the Qualifiers – Dublin’s game-management, he says, remains untouchable.
“It’s very hard to see how Tyrone have closed the gap on Dublin,” said Jordan.
“Possibly Dublin aren’t quite at the level they were last year; I think they’ve dropped back a bit but you have to be realistic and say last season there was a huge gap between Dublin and everybody else. Dublin coasted to the All-Ireland. It was probably one of the easiest All-Irelands that any team has won.
“The level of control that Dublin show in a game, no other team can manage that or seem to have that level of control of the ball. Dublin have 25 players who almost always make the right decision on the ball. And that’s the challenge.”
Tyrone were humbled by the Dubs in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-finals by a 12-point margin and again in last year’s decider but cut Dublin’s winning margin in half by playing with more attacking ambition.
“The good thing is that there is that bit of versatility in Tyrone’s gameplan. They can switch their game, whereas if Tyrone were trailing in a game, you’d be saying it’s going to be a challenge but now they can change.”
Tyrone eased to a four-point win over Roscommon in last weekend’s opening Super 8s clash in Hyde Park while Dublin took a bit of time before getting the measure of a gusty Cork side.
The Rebels trailed by just three points after 58 minutes in Croke Park but conceded a staggering 3-4 in the closing stages to go down by 13 points.
If Tyrone can record back-to-back Super 8s wins over Cork this Saturday they would almost certainly qualify for their third successive All-Ireland semi-final, alongside favourites Dublin.
That would probably mean Dublin’s visit to Omagh on the weekend of August 3/4 would be a dead-rubber.
“If Tyrone have to play Dublin a dead-rubber in the third match of the Super 8s - no matter what way that match goes, even if Tyrone has to win it - I don’t think it answers the question.
"You only get those questions answered when it comes to Croke Park."
Jordan, who was a key player in Tyrone’s All-Ireland winning campaigns in 2003, ’05 and ’08, added: “It is so hard to tell where Tyrone are at. They probably have got the easer side of the draw. The group to be in is the Dublin group because it’s effectively a three-team competition whereas in the other group you could see a team winning two games and not progressing whereas if Tyrone win their first two games they’re virtually in a semi-final.”
Jordan fancies Donegal and Kerry to emerge from the other Super 8s group and feels drawing their Ulster rivals would be a better scenario for the Red Hands.
“The question for Donegal is there’s a lot of hype in the county and people are building them up as the team that possibly can challenge Dublin. Can they deal with, I suppose, the mental pressure of it? I think Kerry have their weaknesses, but I still think playing Donegal would suit Tyrone better than playing a Kerry side [in a possible semi-final].”